If you need to see a doctor but are worried amid COVID-19, there are options like telehealth. LifeBridge Health Dr. Ronald E. Delanois, an orthopedic surgeon, spoke to WJZ’s Nicole Baker about telemedicine and what patients can expect.
Nicole Baker: A lot of people are hearing the term telemedicine or telehealth and for the average patient they may not really know what that means for them, if they’re used to going to the doctor’s office traditionally. Can you break down what telemedicine is and how you all are approaching it?
Dr. Ronald Delanois: Telemedicine in simple terms is a way to communicate to our patients, outside of the in person visit. So traditionally, you come to our office, you meet us we see you we treat you and you leave. It has its own obstacle, especially as our country continues to work and try to read and get back to work. So telehealth is another medium of communication. “Tele” meaning through the phone. But the reality is its video health, right, it’s the opportunity to use video, as we’re doing now, to communicate to our patients to even evaluate our patients and treat our patients via another medium, and right now it’s through video. So most of us are familiar with FaceTime and other mediums Skyping — this is another opportunity for us to touch our patients and make sure they’re getting the right healthcare.
Baker: What are the kind of conditions that you can treat as a doctor using telehealth or telemedicine? I know people may be concerned that they’re not getting the same level of attention or care that they would in a traditional office, but what are you able to treat and diagnose over telemedicine?
Dr. Delanois: So, you know, that’s a very specialty specific question. Depending on what areas your doctor is focused in that may be different — for different specialties. I do think that for probably the majority of medicine it’s a lot of follow up visits. So for example, most of us have a primary care physician and they may say, you know what we’re going to try a new medicine, and I want you to get me to come back and see me to see how it’s progressing or how it’s affecting you. That now can be done via telemedicine.
A follow up visit can be executed very well, including the physical examination. You can have the patient do their own exam, which sometimes is even more beneficial than the doctor and more comfortable than the doctor actually laying hands on you. For an orthopedic perspective, there are many things we oftentimes have a very good idea of what the diagnosis is right prior to actually laying hands. So I think we can help our patients be steered in the right direction and more importantly, avoid wasting their time. Listen to the issue and then more importantly, help diagnose the problem. We can see whether or not you need to get an X-ray or set for a certain treat modality and then come back and come in for an inpatient visit or another televisit — it’s quite varied.
Baker: So patients shouldn’t be overall concerned that telemedicine will replace their traditional trip to the doctor or should they be?
Dr. Delanois: No, I don’t think so. I think it’s an adjunct, right? It’s a really a great tool to help our patients who are working people, who have difficult time taking a half a day, because that’s what it is, when you make a doctor’s appointment.
Oftentimes, say well it’s at 8:30. Well that means you can’t go into your office from 7:30 to 8:30, so the morning is gone. You go to the [doctor’s] office and the office is traditionally running 30 minutes behind. You wait to see the doctor — that’s an hour — and then it’s 9:30 or 10:30, and then you say I’m going to get back to work after lunch, which is one o’clock, so half a day is lost and for working America, that’s tough.
Baker: How should a patient be getting ready for a telemedicine visit?
Dr. Delanois: I’m going to tell you that, you know, it really varies based on the physician service they’re utilizing, because as you know there’s several mediums of communication. Now, we want to make sure that we’re HIPAA compliant. So every organization has some different rules and those are evolving rapidly. For most patients getting ready for a telemedicine visit, they have to sign a waiver HIPAA waiver, they have to sign a consent, and they have to download an app, so they can initiate their communication, but that can vary as well. Some places will not require you to download an app, it’ll be as simple as clicking a button and then you’ll engage as we’re engaging right now. So right now, I would say the average is to sign a consent and to download an app to and get ready and make sure your computer is compatible. The other component is some patients don’t recognize that their computer has no camera or their computer has no microphone– they can’t speak to it. Those are simple things that we take for granted, but often times I’ve had those appointments where someone says, I’ve got to have the phone, as well as the video, because their computer has no audio.
Baker: What are some of the other advantages of seeing a patient in their home in their comfort zone in their element in a telehealth visit versus being in the office?
Dr. Delanois: I think it brings it to a personal level. First, patients are more relaxed their home, which I think is very, very important. We hear from some patients when they come to the doctor, they are anxiety ridden. I think that’s a problem. I think the other component to it is that when patients are at home. We when they say I have difficulties at home doing something, we can see that we can observe that. And I think that’s important. Right. And as our population is aging. One of the things that I worry about orthopedics, you know, is our patients falling. And so when I talk about patients who have cheated from fractures, and I say to them, let’s look at you and see what you have in your house, because the majority of patients who have a secondary fracture. another broken bone after the initial broken bone, it’s oftentimes associated with their home environment. And so having a telemedicine visit can now allow me into their home in a very passive manner so that I can say, Oh, I see you have a throw rug. I see you have your, your coffee tables to close, you don’t have clarity in your coffee table in your in your sofa. So therefore, that’s a problem and patients can then go up, I didn’t recognize that would be a problem. So,
Listen to the rest of Nicole’s interview with Dr. Delanois — they talk about elective procedures and how patients can stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic if they must physically go to the hospital for a procedure.